Picture it now: you’ve just come back from a mountain bike ride in one of our country’s awesome national parks. It’s getting dark so you turn on the lights and ……nothing. Your RV’s electrical system has failed. What do? Well, try to avoid this situation in the first place by considering this when you buy. Living in an RV is quite different and like any homeowner learning to navigate the systems of a house it is wise to learn about RV’s as well, whether they are camper vans, Class B motorhomes or van builds.

There are usually 3 options for electricity in an RV; a generator, lithium battery or RV hookup. Having power at your fingertips is one of the luxury features separating you from people roughing it in tents. That’s why you bought into the RV life in the first place. Before you sign on the dotted line, read this short guide to how the electrical system works. It’s something full time RVers already know but there’s nothing stopping you from learning it as a novice.

AC/DC Isn’t Just a Rock Band

 Alternating current or AC and direct current or DC are powering the system in your rig. DC systems are generally 12-volt and run the engine and its battery while the appliances and plug-ins are powered by AC.

Your RV is Ready for Hookups

 The hookups at parks and campgrounds are called shore power and come in either 20, 30 or 50 amps. The types depend on what kind of RV you have. Smaller rigs like Class B vans, travel trailers or pop ups have 30 amps, while the big rigs like 5th wheels have 50. A lot of campsites are phasing out 20 amp hookup outlets.

AC current that powers your appliances is what you get in shore power. It’s essential to keep power converters with you as you travel, for example a 30 to 50 or 50 to 30. That way you’ll be ready for any type of shore power hookup you run into in any park or campsite. Also, make sure to ask which hookup is available when making your reservation. If you make a wrong connection you could damage the electrical system in your RV or have the unfortunate situation of damaging the RV park’s system which could be very costly indeed.

Inverting and Converting

 Switching power from DC to AC may sometimes be necessary and for this you will need an inverter. Check the user’s manual of your RV to ensure you buy the right one. It will be essential to have one where AC hookups are not available and you don’t have the energy or time to find another campsite. Converters, also referred to as chargers, aren’t used as much as inverters. They convert AC to DC power and are useful for charging any small devices you have with you.

Be Prepared Not Scared

By doing a little research and asking questions before you buy you can make sure your new RV life is a happy and well-lit experience. Electrical power is an essential part of living the convenient, fun RV lifestyle. Being prepared will save money and aggravation in the long run.